Monday, September 17, 2018

Geeking out in Portland, OR

I just got back from a long weekend in Portland, OR. The nominal reason for my visit was the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's Plant Fest, a half-day program featuring a special lecture (this year by Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken of Far Reaches Farm) and a plant sale.

Fortunately, friend and fellow Northern California blogger Kathy of GardenBook was in Portland on business. She'd taken her own car so she could buy plants, and she agreed to transport my haul back with her. This allowed to me to buy with abandon—something I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise since I flew there and back. Kathy lives only an hour from my house so picking up my plants will be easy.

Loree of Danger Garden and her husband Andrew once again gave me a home away from home; they're not only great hosts, but also the nicest people. It was wonderful being able to step outside and explore the Danger Garden as much as I wanted. I took a lot of pictures and will have a couple of long posts in the new few weeks. Here are a just a few teasers:

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Troy McGregor's backyard redesign: why rocks make all the difference

When I visited landscape designer Troy McGregor in mid-April, he was redoing a major part of his backyard—the area that would have been the lawn in the good old days. I was there when a shipment of rocks arrived, and throughout the summer I was wondering what Troy had done with them.

Last Saturday I went back to Troy's to pick up some plants, and I finally saw the finished product: a masterful multi-level rockscape that is now home to the kinds of plants I love.


If I woke up one morning and saw this view from our front windows, I would have a happy smile on my face. 

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 9/9/18: from billy balls to rusty saw blades

The weekend is almost over. The only good thing about it: It's time for another Weekend Wrapup (WeWu).

The calendar is relentlessly moving towards fall, but the weather here in Davis seems to be blissfully ignorant. It's 95°F right now on Sunday afternoon at 4pm! I'm looking forward to change of scenery, and temperature, this coming weekend when I'll be in Portland, Oregon.

But for now, let's dive right in. Hot weather, hot plants.

Billy balls (Craspedia globosa) is my personal "it" plant for summer 2018. The first one, planted in the spring, did so well that I've added three more. All of them are in the succulent mounds in the front yard. I'm keeping them well watered since they're still getting established but the heat doesn't seem the faze them.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Two Walnut Creek neighbors embrace water-wise landscaping

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to Walnut Creek for the Ruth Bancroft Garden's 2018 Local Garden Tour. I had the opportunity to visit three out of four water-wise gardens. One was Brian's garden, which I showed you in this post. Today I'll take you to the two other.

These two gardens are located right next to each other. What's more, they were designed/overhauled by Laura Hogan of Arid Accents and, as a result, have a cohesive look you rarely see in two neighboring properties. The front yards' limited plant palette combining rocks with agaves, grasses and silver-leaved perennials is an effective foil for the streamlined architecture of the 1960s Eichler-style homes.

House #1 

The agaves in the front yard of garden #1 were moved from the backyard where they had outgrown their space. A great cost-effective way to create something new with what you already have!

Monday, September 3, 2018

Annie's Annuals Labor Day visit (and sale)

Annie's Annuals in Richmond, CA is having a big Labor Day sale: 20% all plants, both in the nursery and online. If you can't make it to the nursery, you still have until midnight Pacific Time tonight (September 3) to place an order on their web site.

I made the 1-hour drive to Richmond on Saturday morning, armed with my wish list and camera. As an Annie's follower on Facebook and Instagram, I knew that their display beds were bursting with color. Unfortunately, the battery pack in my camera gave out early—I'd grabbed the one that doesn't hold much of a charge anymore—but I still got a few dozen good photos so you can get an idea of how picture-perfect the plantings are right now.

Always a sight for sore eyes

Friday, August 31, 2018

Around the world on 6,000 sq.ft.: Brian's miniature botanical garden

A few months ago, I showed you my friend Brian's completely transformed front yard in Concord, California, about an hour from where I live. Brian is a fellow plantaholic who has assembled an impressive collection of dryland plants from all over the world—his own miniature botanical garden, you might say. This is no coincidence, considering that Brian volunteers at the nearby Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) once or twice a week. The constant exposure to one of the best succulent gardens in the country—and the master plantsmen who continue Ruth's legacy, including curator Brian Kemble, assistant curator Walker Young and horticulturist Ryan Penn—has had a profound effect on Brian's own path as a gardener. As an extra benefit, he has been able to bring home discarded plants from the RBG that would otherwise have ended up on their compost pile. Add to that an outsized green thumb, and it's no surprise that Brian's garden is flourishing.

Driveway bed

Last weekend, Brian's garden was on the Ruth Bancroft Garden's 2018 Local Gardens Tour. This is how it was described in the program:
After a delivery of four tons of rock and 30 yards of Bancroft Bedding Blend (from Contra Costa Topsoil), the lawn-to-garden transformation of this residence was quite dramatic as you will see in the before-after photos.  The backyard features a very special collection of cacti and succulents in raised beds and containers.
To see before/after photos, check out my post from June 2018.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 8/26/18: a pineappled agave and a real pineapple

Another week has gone by in a hurry so time for another Weekend Wrapup (WeWu). Remember this is a completely random collection of vignettes—things that caught my eye or that I worked on during the week (and weekend).

Everytime to go to Woodland, I drive by a clump of Agave americana in front of one of the ranchettes along the rural road I take. I posted about it before, in February 2011. The clump is much smaller now but it's still there. Right now, this rather strange looking specimen is flowering:


Not only has this Agave americana been pineappled to within an inch of its life, they also chopped off the flower stalk as it was emerging. Not that it stopped it, but it's much shorter than it would otherwise be.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Empty pots make me anxious

If you're anything like me, you have lots of these:


Mind you, what you see above is just a small quantity of the empty nursery cans in the backyard. I do reuse the square pots and the green pots regularly but the 1-gallon pots really can go. I have every intention of taking them to a local nursery that accepts used nursery containers, but I haven't quite yet made it to the "get of your ass and do it" stage.

But what I want to talk about in this post are the kinds of pots you see in the next set photos: the "good" pots. They may be dusty and a bit dirty but they're perfectly serviceable and look decent when cleaned up.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Octopus agave bulbils: is there such a thing as "too many?"

Five years ago friends of ours adopted an octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana) I'd removed from the driveway bed. They planted it in the meadow garden in their front yard where it was much happier than it had been at our house.

This spring it started to send up a flower stalk, signaling the beginning of the end. Here's a sequence of photos from our friend Paul showing the progress of the inflorescence:

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 8/18/18: prickly superstars and more

So many of the photos I take are snapshots of things that catch my eye, projects I'm working on, plants I just bought, etc. Often there isn't enough of a story for an entire post so they never get seen. That's why I'm starting a new feature: the Weekend Wrapup (WeWu). Every Saturday or Sunday I'll throw together a post of these snaps in hopes you'll find them interesting.

Here are the succulent mounds in the front yard as seen from the front porch. I really enjoy this view, and I constantly look for ways to cram more plants in. Fortunately, many of these plants are sloooow growers so they should continue to coexist peacefully for years to come.